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SOC310H5 Chapter Notes -Sexual Assault, Child Abuse, Moral Panic

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Zachary Levinsky

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Violence and Youth (Chapter 9)
February 15, 2012
- There is a lot of pervasive violence in pop-culture and the media. Ex. Video
games, music, movies, etc.
- Violence alters our way of life where we choose to live, how we act. We
think about, for example, the danger of going to a particular place at a
particular time.
- It is the elderly, not the youth, who have the greatest fear of crime, despite
having the lowest victimization rates.
- Media grossly distorts the prevalence and risk associated with youth crime.
Their victimization is underplayed while their roles as perpetrators are
- The implications to our culture are huge. We take so many steps to protect
ourselves. Demanding more intense punishment, installing alarms, etc.
- Makes people feel like something should be done about youth violence. Like
get “tough on crime” or looking at the “causes of crime”.
- People see more willing to accept a quick and easy solution like incarceration
instead of willing to spend money, time, and devote attention to long-term
responses and prevention, which would involve research into the underlying
condition of youth crime.
Violence Then
- In biblical times, the blood of God’s enemies was often shed.
- Countless other references of violence dot human history.
- Ex. Roman Gladiators.
- Historically, violence has been persistent and widespread, but its meaning
not obvious.
Violence Now
- The tools of violence have changed.
- More importantly the way violence is perceived and evaluated has changed.
- Technology shows us violence from all over the world continuously.
- Wars, gangs, terrorism are all usual these days.
- It is more about how our perception of violence has changed than about how
it has actually changed. Our shift in thinking about it.
Biological Explanation
- Lombroso, founder of modern criminology, was certain that criminal
behavior was marked on the body.
- Certain traits could predict criminality.
- Phrenologists believed that aggressive character could be read on the skull
through arrangement of bumps and depressions.
- In more recent times, DNA has been examined for violent personalities. This
return of the biological explanation has been critiqued.
- There seems to be little sound reason to venture into behavioral genetics.
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Psychological Constructions of Violence
- According to Freud, we have natural instincts towards both aggression and
- The instincts guided to aggression serve to destroy life.
- The instincts guided to sex serve to preservation and unification.
- He believed that physical and mental prerequisites of violence are intrinsic to
our very essence.
- It is because of this that he didn’t really have a solution.
- This theory obviously had criticisms even though it was at the center of
thinking about youth violence.
- One critique by Girard is that, asserting that violence is intrinsic, is a way of
avoiding the confrontation the underlying rationality of violence. It avoids
the painful work involved in exploring how violence is embedded in us.
- Girard believed that violence emerged out of desire and imitation. In any
situation there is a subject, object and rival. The rival wants the same object
as the subject. The subject desires the object because the rival wants it. Thus
the desire for something is often because someone else wants it (mimicking,
- Many psychologists agree that observational learning is a major
psychological process underlying the effects of media violence on aggressive
- The role of media, particularly violent imagery and messages, is
Social Constructions of Violence
- Humans are social beings, which implies that we must find the causes, or
conditions that bring about our social attitudes, behaviors and identities.
- If violence can’t be explained by DNA or desires or drives, the perhaps we
need to see how violence operates as a socio-cultural construct.
- Violence and aggression as social acts.
- Society reinforces various forms of socially accepted violence daily through
the media, public discourse and in schools.
- Idea that zero-tolerance policies and anti-gang legislations won’t change
violent attitudes and behaviors that are part of historical contexts.
- In working class or disadvantaged areas, violence is permitted and
- Americans get heavy doses of media violence.
- There is a complex relationship between actual violence and media violence,
which is exaggerated.
- Violent media is America’s most exportable commodity.
- Leads to aggressive behavior in youth since the behavior is socially
acceptable and common.
- Especially children who come from environments where violence is
- Many times violence is a character contests.
- Taunts like “bitch” or “pussy” provoke someone.
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